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2012 FIN – Orbitform’s Shirkey Reflects on 1st Year in State Legislature

May 06
00:00 2011


February 20, 2012 FIN – Even as a freshman among 110 state representatives, Orbitform Group owner Mike Shirkey finds he has made a difference in his first year.

Shirkey cites his personal philosophy of asking “How can I do this?” rather than “Why can’t I do this?” as the key to his success in multiple legislative areas.

“I’m here to tell you one person can make a difference. That keeps me fired up.”

Shirkey believes that at age 57 he has an experience advantage over most rookie legislators.

Shirkey pointed to his role in keeping the Michigan legislature from “premature actions” to implement the U.S. Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act – “Obamacare” – until the Supreme Court rules on its constitutionality this summer.

Noting Michigan is recognized as “the most compulsory union state,” Shirkey hopes it will soon be the 24th “right-to-work” state.  “We’ve gone from zero interest to substantial interest in the past year,” Shirkey told

Shirkey was elected as a Republican to the Michigan House of Representatives in 2010.

Jackson, MI-based Orbitform designs and manufactures orbital forming riveting machines and forming, fastening and assembly automation equipment.

Shirkey enjoys the political opportunity to “recalibrate citizens in understanding how the legislative process is supposed to work.” Individuals need to “disclose or expose government problems” to their legislators, he urged.

Shirkey cited the example of a live minnow bait business in his lower central Michigan legislative district.  The business owners approached him with a problem that bulk minnows could be shipped into Michigan and repackaged to sell on the retail level within the state, but a 1957 Michigan law prohibited shipping outside the state.

Shirkey allows the “benefit of the doubt that there were good intentions” in the original law, but he said no one has been able to figure why the shipping out of state was ever banned.

Because the small business owner approached his state representative, the law got changed, Shirkey pointed out.

More laws need to be changed, Shirkey told “There are thousands of irrelevant laws in Michigan alone.”

Citizens need to step forward to “disclose or expose government problems,” he insists. He added that in addition to pointing out problems, it helps to propose solutions.” Don’t rely on government to come up with solutions,” Shirkey advised.

His staff is currently examining state manufacturing laws to find better answers than old laws. Shirkey observes that when there is a problem, many people look to government to fix it with a mandate. “I do the opposite.  I ask ‘How can we accomplish what is needed without a mandate?'”

He cited eye exams for elementary school pupils that have lost funding over the years. Shirkey, noting that has resulted in a reduction in performance for students with eye challenges, thinks he has found a solution. Instead of a law mandating government eye exams, Shirkey worked with optometrists to find a way to get eyes checked.  His solution is a pilot program for credits to reduce optometrists’ state income tax liability.

Shirkey graduated from General Motors Institute (now Kettering University) and spent 13 years as a manufacturing engineer for GM’s AC Spark Plug division, where he became involved in orbital forming.

He became friends with the owners of Orbitform – which at that time was a product line rather than a manufacturer. They sensed the 29-year-old’s enthusiasm and turned to him to build Orbitform.

In 1987 with “little capital and a lot of enthusiasm,” Shirkey took over Orbitform.

“There is nothing like debt and uncertainty of the next paycheck to get you out of bed in the morning,” he recalled.

Shirkey has always held a “passionate interest in politics” and a half dozen times over the decades considering running for office. Each time his wife, Sue Shirkey, pointed out potential obstacles, such as the ages of their three children.

In 2009 “the itch came back,” Shirkey recalled. “This time her response was ‘maybe.’ I stuck my foot in the door before she could change her mind.”

Then the incumbent state representative died unexpectedly, creating a vacancy. Shirkey jumped in and was elected with 63% of the vote in November 2010.

He is seeking reelection this year.

Now Shirkey spends 55 to 60 hours a week in his legislative role and four to eight hours with Orbitform.

“It has been an incredibly exciting year that has flown by,” Shirkey reflected.

Shirkey’s government address: N999 Anderson House Office Bldg, 124 N. Capitol, Lansing, MI 48933. Tel: 517 373-1775 or 888 347-8065 E-mail:


Orbitform Group is headquartered at 1600 Executive Dr., Jackson, MI 49203. Tel: 517 787-9447 Fax 517 787-6609 E-mail: Web: ©2011/2013 Fastener Industry News

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